Police charge teen in cookie caper

Girl Scout coordinator reports outpouring of support for girls from around state, nation

Posted: Friday, March 13, 2009

A 17-year-old boy has been arrested in connection with the theft of nearly $800 from two 10-year-old Girl Scouts at Fred Meyer on Sunday.

The Juneau Police Department arrested the boy on Wednesday for allegedly tampering with evidence after a search warrant was executed a day earlier on a vehicle seen fleeing from the scene of Sunday's robbery. He was lodged at the Johnson Youth Center and held without bail.

A man had written down the license plate of the vehicle after a male suspect wearing a hooded sweatshirt, a ski mask and goggles allegedly stole a cash box at about 5:40 p.m. Sunday. The box contained proceeds from Girl Scout cookie sales. The vehicle had recently been sold, but the new owner's information was not available.

Police located the vehicle in the Sprucewood Trailer Park on Monday and seized it as evidence. Investigators conducted a search of the vehicle on Tuesday and located items from the theft.

The residence of the vehicle's owner was searched, leading to the arrest of the suspect on the felony charge.

"There was a search warrant on the residence and we were able to establish that ... the 17-year-old juvenile had destroyed some of the evidence associated with that theft," JPD spokesman Sgt. Dave Campbell said.

The police are continuing the investigation and are trying to establish a second suspect that allegedly corroborated in the cookie caper.

"We had one person who grabbed the box containing the money and ran from the store, and we had another person that was driving the car that the original suspect had jumped into," Campbell said. "We are trying to get to the point where we can prove who the person driving the vehicle was and prove who the person was who grabbed the box and fled from the store."

According to police, the box contained approximately $600 in cash and $200 worth of checks from the annual cookie sale fundraiser. The two girls from Troop 32 had spent nearly four hours selling cookies at Fred Meyer before the theft occurred.

Linda Sylvester, program and membership coordinator for the Tongass Alaska Girl Scout Council, said there has been an outpouring of support for the two girls and the Girl Scouts from around the state and nation. Numerous people have made cash donations and they have generated lots of cookie sales since the theft, she said.

Fred Meyer has agreed to donate $800 to the troop and even Gov. Sarah Palin has sent a message of support to the girls. The governor is expected to meet with Troop 32 between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the store when representatives from Fred Meyer present the donation check.

"Everyone's sentiment is, we want the girls to know that there are more good people in the world than bad," Sylvester said. "So it was really sweet that that message was kind of resonating in the community."

Also, inmates of the Lemon Creek Correction Center council have ordered 240 boxes of cookies. They intend to resell them in the prison and donate the proceeds to the Girl Scouts, Sylvester said.

"They were so outraged by it that they wanted to make a substantial order and sell them and increase the contribution once they distribute them in jail," she said. "They wanted that information to get out in the community ... that people should think twice before (stealing from) a Girl Scout again."

Fred Meyer also has changed its policy to allow the girls to sell cookies inside the store where there is more security. Sunday's theft had occurred in the Arctic entry of the store. The store also will hold onto the money from the sales so the girls don't have large sums of cash on them, Sylvester said.

The girls and the parents of the Scouts are still shaken by the incident, she said. There will be a counselor at the troop's next meeting to discuss the theft.

"The parents are still unnerved by it that their kids could be such targets, especially in that troop," she said. "They're nervous about the girls doing more booth sales. There will be repercussions from this that we'll be dealing with for several years."

Campbell said police are still investigating whether or not Sunday's theft is connected to an alleged armed robbery in the Fred Meyer parking lot a week earlier.

"There are some similarities of those two instances but there are also some facts that are not similar," he said. "At this point we don't have any firm connection between the two, but we are keeping that in mind to see if they are tied to one another."

He said it is possible that Sunday's theft is drug related and investigators are still looking into whether or not drugs were a factor.

Police said anyone with information should call the police department at 586-0600 or call the Juneau Crime Line at 586-4243.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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